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Not your average guy

The name of the character on the website is Average Mohamed but his message to Muslim children globally is anything but average.

Mohamed Amin Ahmed, a man originally from Somalia and now based in the United States, decided to counter terror group ISIS’s hate campaign aimed at Muslim children via his website averagemohamed.com.

The site is aimed at children aged between eight and 16 and uses social platforms Facebook, YouTube and Twitter with stories, messages and videos that stress it is cool to be at peace with yourself and the global community.

Mohamed says another aim of the site is to equip average parents with talking points that can assist them with theological and logical counter-narratives to the lies spread by extremists like ISIS.

In an interview with The Point Magazine, Mohamed said although the project has met considerable success, there’s a long way to go before ISIS propaganda is counteracted.

Why did you start Average Mohamed?

It was to get the perspective of ordinary Muslims, most of whom oppose extremism. We hear from governments, but not enough from us Muslims. The majority who die at the hands of extremists are Muslims. An average guy can be indoctrinated and act out in extremism. It will take all of us average Muslims to counter this. Hence the creation of using the most common name in the world, Mohamed, as the basis of an average guy.

What is the aim of Average Mohamed?

We are a counter-extremist platform and our sole purpose is to create a counter-narrative against extremism, specifically religious extremism from the Muslim world. As Muslims we are promoting three principles dear to us, peace, democracy and anti-extremism. We have created easy-to-use, easy-to-understand and easy-to-disseminate talking points using popular culture engines like cartoons and social media.

How does Average Mohamed aim to counter violent extremism?

We do this simply by espousing majority Muslim values and principles. We use cartoons and talking points, some based on articles of faith, some logical and others just popular culture tools like the spoken word. Average Mohamed works within the confines of democratic principles, culture and religion to do our work. For every value of extremism, be it slavery, gender equity, anti-Semitism, identity, free speech, and many others we create a message to counter the extremists. We make the point, that extremism is an abomination and that democracy is the ideal form of governance. Every video ends with a peace sign because peace, is what most Muslims want. Look at our greeting, “Assalamu Aleikum”, which translates to Peace Be Upon you. This is our Muslim value. We present these ideas on social media, Facebook and Twitter. We also do outreach where we talk directly to kids, in schools, madrassa (traditional schools) and mosques.

Who does Average Mohamed target?

We target Muslim youth aged between eight and 16. This is the perfect age, when they are curious, questioning the world, seeking answers and are in their formative years. We find that this age group is open to ideas, values and principles.

Why is it important to have counter-narratives to terrorist organisations like ISIS?

ISIS is spectacular at creating propaganda that is highly effective at indoctrination across the world. They are promoting their world view. We Muslims who believe differently need to present our view. Let me give you an example: ISIS created a video, Flames of War, Average Mohamed created a video Flames of Hell in direct response. We go toe to toe with the videos of ISIS. Through word of mouth, we garnered over 12,000 views just on YouTube. In all our videos we have achieved over 200,000 views. Young Muslims want to be engaged, but from a point of decency within their cultural and religious understanding. We are doing just that, without even using a penny in advertising.

What’s the biggest challenge Average Mohamed faces?

This would be access to networks and resources. Most of our initiative is self-funded and from very grassroots donations. The need is there and the ideas are ready … we just need more support. We could produce a message every 14 days but we are limited due to our access to resources. The challenge now for us is to replicate the process elsewhere. What works in the USA can work just the same in Australia. There must be civil organisations or NGOs that want to do this work. We offer logistics, mechanisms, messaging criteria and, most important, time. One reason we do media, is to get the message out. We offer solutions to this ongoing problem.

What’s the best way to counter violent extremism?

The sad reality is some extremists are walking, ticking time bombs who want to kill or destroy. Law enforcement is a must to deal with that because it is a crime. The best way to deal with extremism is to counter it at the point of inception … that point when a kid sees a suicide video and thinks it is cool. We need to have our message read, a message that condemns suicide bombings as not an Islamic principle. It takes an idea to defeat an idea.

Average Mohamed breaks myths and stereotypes about Islam, how important is it for young Muslims to understand the true version of Islam?

Religion misunderstood is poison. It infects the mind, body and soul, making that person a shell of a human being. That is why we must counter it, forcefully, unapologetically, civilly and courteously. We are Muslims, not fools. Extremism offers only two paths, you will kill or you will be killed. Anti-extremism is affirmation of our noble faith, Islam. Affirmation of life, dignity and decency are all basic foundations of our faith. Extremism is bereft of any mercy, reason or logic. We all need to stand firmly and loudly against it.

Where do you wish to see Average Mohamed in 10 years?

The dream is the creation of a thousand Average Mohameds across the globe and for it to reach millions of people and engage youth not as a one-off but as a continuous process of messaging over years. I hope we see more training of young Muslims, and even non-Muslims, to go out and do outreach. Only together can we defeat extremism.

The Point

'Average Mohamed's' message to Muslim children globally is anything but average.

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